Sunday, September 7, 2008

FUDCon Brno 2008

I'm sitting here in the car on the way home from the Fedora User and Developer Conference (FUDCon for short) in Brno, Czech Republic. Daniel from OLPC Austria and me attended the event from Friday until today and I have to say it was well worth the 2x 5 hours ride to/from Brno.

The main reason for going to FUDCon was to meet up with the core Sugar developers (Sugar being the software platform originally developed for One Laptop per Child) and have a OLPC / Sugar / Sugar Labs (the latter being the new non-profit organization created to improve and spread the Sugar platform) presence at the event.

We arrived quite late on Friday evening but we did make it in time for some great Czech food and beer at a small restaurant near the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University where the event was held. We didn't waste any time and quickly moved into a very good discussion on the recent past and current status of OLPC, Sugar and Sugar Labs. Apart from recounting the madness that was the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Session in Ljubljana back in March we also generated a couple of good ideas for things to be improved or done in the foreseeable future. While we initially had the intention to call it a day when the waitress closed the restaurant some of us decided to take a peek at nightlife in Brno. We ended up in this somewhat generic disco/pub/bar but the beer and discussions were good and it was nice way to chill out after what had been quite a long day for me.

Sugar Labs gang

Saturday's program was dedicated to a BarCamp where we hosted a 50min session in the morning. I started off with a 15~20 min presentation on the "who, what and why of Sugar" which was basically a broad overview of some key features in Sugar, the core challenges that the project is facing, some thoughts on education and the current state of things with regard to OLPC and Sugar. The second part of the session was held by the Sugar developer team and focused on the more technical aspects of the project and especially areas where the Fedora community can contribute. At the end we had quite an engaging Q&A session with the majority of the comments and discussions centered around storing and retrieving data. Instead of the traditional files and folders system Sugar (on the surface) employs something called the Journal which basically acts as a diary (with support for searching, tagging and filtering) of everything you do on your machine. It was interesting to hear people's thoughts on this approach and I think we're definitely going to have many more discussions on this topic in the weeks and months ahead.

The afternoon was spent sweating away in a very steamy lecture-room where we first we heard a presentation about what seems to be quite a cool translation platform called Transifex. Later we turned our attention on getting some work and, in my case, mostly e-mailing done. The evening was dedicated to the FUDCon social event which meant mediocre food, great beer and outstanding discussions all while surrounded by people wearing white FUDCon Brno 2008 t-shirts. We really got an awful lot of work done both before and after dinner and thanks to having an XO at hand we could record all of our thoughts, strategies and ideas which we would have undoubtedly forgotten otherwise. We then went for a nice walk towards the city center which was followed by the long walk home since our hotel was a couple of kilometers away from Brno's center. We almost lost our two Italian developers along the way because while they might be able to code for 3 days straight walking for a bit apparently kills their spirit or something.

getting things done

Since everyone had gotten a good night's sleep (7h, I hadn't come close to that during the rest of the week) we were all quite relaxed and energetic today. While the Sugar team got together for a discussion of the roadmap and feature-set for the Sugar 0.84 release I toyed around with the RoadMap activity, caught up with most of my e-mails and sketched out some ideas and to-dos for the weeks ahead. In the late afternoon we had a good discussion were we wrapped-up many of the thoughts that we had collected on the day before.

All in all a very productive and enjoyable weekend and while it's going to be a while I'm already looking forward to the next meeting with these fine folks. As always with OLPC-related experiences it's a great pleasure to be able to spend your time with people who are that smart and inspiring.

Some random observations:

  • I assume almost 2/3 of all the laptops I saw at FUDCon were Lenovo ThinkPads. There were also a number of eee PC owners at the event and in general there's definitely a strong trend towards machines which are smaller than 15.4".
  • The organization at FUDCon was nothing short of stellar and kudos to Red Hat and everyone who was involved in the process. That's exactly what a community event should be like and I know of many organizations which could learn a thing or two from Red Hat / Fedora in that respect!

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